Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
By Brian Ballou
April 23, 2015
The scene outside Wes Clark's home evokes a militarized zone, with massive concrete barricades lining the road, a desolate checkpoint with automatic gate, and numerous surveillance cameras..
This is what it looks like when two cities go to war.
The city of Pembroke Pines and town of Southwest Ranches have been embroiled in a border dispute for years over land use and road access, resulting in lawsuits and costly legal appeals.
Now Southwest Ranches is preparing to launch yet another lawsuit, with Clark's mother, an ailing 85-year-old woman, serving as legal ammo to storm the barricades.
The barricades, installed by Pembroke Pines last year, seal off the east end of Southwest 54th Place, a narrow dirt road. They were erected in response to gates that Southwest Ranches put up in 2012.
"Where is this going, are they going to be putting up barricades everywhere...when does it end?" Clark asked.
The upcoming suit by Southwest Ranches seeks to have Pembroke Pines remove the barricades. The argument: They pose a clear danger to Amy Clark and other residents because it cuts access to emergency vehicles.
Amy Clark uses a walker and suffers from kidney and heart ailments.
"I just want the situation resolved before someone in my family's health care is delayed in any way," said Wes Clark, who is 59 and runs a stone refinishing business.
Clark is friendly with his Pembroke Pines neighbors across the street, but believes the ongoing dispute is creating acrimony between some Pembroke Pines and Southwest Ranches residents.
Southwest Ranches Mayor Jeff Nelson called the installation of the barricades "reprehensible."
"Pines' option to Mr. Clark to address the situation is for him to de-annex and join Pines...how absurd," Nelson said.
As long as he can, Nelson will use SWR's funds for his Pines litigations. It's like nothing else matters. He starts the fights, loses, then continues to file suits to show he was right to start. What a waste of money. I hope the residents boot him next time around and put someone in...
Pembroke Pines City Attorney Sam Goren said city officials have not yet reviewed Southwest Ranches' written resolution to sue. "When that occurs, the city will respond to the resolution, and vigorously defend the allegations in the appropriate forum," he said.
Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis declined comment but has previously said that the barricades, gates and a paved road on the city's side of the barrier were intended to provide its residents with a route to Griffin Road that had been cut off by gates that Southwest Ranches installed in 2012.
"They don't have any problem putting up buffers to block our people," Ortis said.
Though it's attacking the barricades near Clark's house, Southwest Ranches has three steel gates of its own, on 199th, 202nd, and 205th avenues. Nelson said those roads were closed to protect residents from cars cutting through from Pembroke Pines.
Pembroke Pines officials said the gates forced residents to daily travel out of their way. In September 2013, a 48-year-old woman who had just dropped off her child at school was killed after a felon fleeing police hit her SUV on U.S. 27. Her husband said she wouldn't have used U.S. 27 if the gates didn't exist.
The incident prompted city officials to purchase land and build Southwest 207th Terrace, which connected to Southwest 54th Place for access to Griffin Road. The road was paved and the barricades were put in place along the border. The city also installed a gate system on its side to limit access to Pines residents.
Jim Breig, former president of the Trails of Pembroke Pines Homeowner's Association, said residents on both sides are caught in the middle of political bickering between their leaders.
"Listen, I don't disagree with what Southwest Ranches is saying about the barricade, because we've experienced some of the problems that they are raising now, but I think this is all a political game that goes back to the prison," he said.
The facility Breig referred to, a $75 million federal detention center in Southwest Ranches, was never built and led to the most litigious fight between Pines and Ranches.
In June 2012, federal officials announced they were scrapping plans for the facility. Southwest Ranches blamed that on Pembroke Pines' decision not to provide water and sewage to the site. The town filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing that it breached an interlocal agreement to provide the services. That case is still pending.
Just three months ago, a judge ruled in favor of the Pembroke Pines on a case involving the construction of a charter school near Southwest Ranches' town line. The town requested mediation with the city to discuss how the school would impact the town. After Pembroke Pines declined to participate, Southwest Ranches filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the city to do so, but a judge ruled that the city was not obligated.